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LanzaTech and lululemon partner to create the first fabric using recycled carbon emissions

US-headed biotechnology company and carbon recycler LanzaTech Inc. has announced that it has partnered with compatriot lululemon athletica inc., an athletic apparel company, to create the world’s first yarn and fabric using recycled carbon emissions that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere as pollution.

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LanzaTech Inc. has partnered with lululemon athletica inc., to create the world’s first yarn and fabric using recycled carbon emissions that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere as pollution (photo courtesy LanzaTech).

LanzaTech uses nature-based solutions to produce ethanol from waste carbon sources and is working with partners India Glycols Ltd (IGL) and Far Eastern New Century (FENC), to convert ethanol to polyester.

Recycling carbon is a fundamental element of the circular economy, which will keep fossil carbon in the ground, reducing pollution and fossil fuel usage when used to make polyester. With a lower carbon footprint, this innovation could transform lululemon’s products and the apparel industry.

In October 2020, lululemon released its first Impact Agenda, outlining its multi-year strategies to address critical social and environmental issues with 12 goals to drive progress. The partnership with LanzaTech is one of the many ways lululemon is focused on bringing new technologies to the business.

lululemon is committed to making products that are better in every way – building a healthier future for ourselves, for our communities, and for our planet. We know sustainable innovation will play a key role in the future of retail and apparel, and we are excited to be at the forefront of innovative technology. Our partnership with LanzaTech will help lululemon deliver on our Impact Agenda goals to make 100 percent of our products with sustainable materials and end-of-use solutions, moving us toward a circular ecosystem by 2030, said Ted Dagnese, Chief Supply Chain Officer, lululemon.

Proprietary CarbonSmart process

LanzaTech’s process sources carbon from different types of feedstocks, from industrial emissions to syngas from gasified agricultural or household waste including textile waste, and atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

The gas stream is fermented by LanzaTech’s special microorganisms into ethanol or other chemicals. The process is like traditional fermentation, except instead of sugars and yeast, it uses the carbon contained in waste gases and microorganisms.

We must radically change how we source, utilize and dispose of carbon. Carbon recycling enables companies like lululemon to continue to move away from virgin fossil resources, bring circularity to their products, and achieve their climate change goals around carbon reduction. We call this being ‘CarbonSmart, said Dr Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech.

The process of capturing and recycling carbon before it is released into the atmosphere is an innovation that LanzaTech has brought to airlines, the cosmetics and fragrance industry, home care companies, and now textile production.

 We take pride in being part of this exciting collaboration for a better planet, and what better way than to capture emissions and use innovative green technologies to create useful CarbonSmart products, said Rupark Sarswat, CEO of IGL.

Replace fossil polyester fibre

Polyester fibre is one of the most popular synthetic fibres which commonly uses petroleum-based feedstock. Using “FENC TOPGREEN Bio3-PET” fibre made from LanzaTech’s ethanol shows FENC’s and lululemon’s commitments to sustainable innovation.

This waste-gas-based polyester possesses not only the same appearance but also the same properties and functionality as virgin polyester.

Since initially connecting LanzaTech’s Taiwanese joint-venture set up with a pilot plant in Taiwan, I believed this waste-gas-based polyester formation would be a sustainable solution for the polyester industry. We are happy to team up with IGL and lululemon to complete the supply chain for this historical project and continue working with LanzaTech towards our common goal for a better Earth, said Dr Fanny Liao, EVP of RD & BD, FENC.

By capturing industrial emissions and reusing the carbon to make yarn, the finished garments not only have a lower carbon footprint but ensure community pollution levels are reduced.

If these chemicals are made into new products such as textiles, once these products reach the end of their useful life and become waste, they can be gasified and fermented by LanzaTech’s process. In this sense, the pathway promotes circularity, keeping the carbon in the material cycle.

Partnering with technology leaders and other reputed companies is a great way to create the much-needed sustainable business models which are so important to help us deal with the major challenges like climate change that we face, commented U S Bhartia, Chairman of IGL.

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